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“Mobility is freedom”: Moataz Mohamed awarded SSHRC grant to improve Canada’s transit infrastructureJune 8, 2021

Engineers shape society in ways beyond developing technological breakthroughs and towering megaprojects. Policy recommendations that impact our work, housing, availability of goods – and transportation – are often influenced by engineers.

A McMaster researcher in transportation engineering is developing policy recommendations by identifying how transit systems can be customized to community needs. He is using unique knowledge synthesis models to inform which research conducted worldwide can help guide Canadian transit infrastructure development.

Moataz Mohamed, assistant professor in the department of civil engineering, is hoping his important research will influence transportation policy across Canada and beyond for years to come. The Government of Canada has shown its support through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Knowledge Synthesis Grant: Mobility and Public Transit category.

“Mobility is freedom, but only if it’s efficient, sustainable and works for all Canadians. The researchers that the Government of Canada are supporting through this initiative will be doing the work that will underpin evidenced-based investments and innovative decision-making. It’s how we will transform Canada’s public transport systems to be the most equitable, sustainable, and effective, and help Canadians connect after such distant times,” said The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, during a virtual announcement on June 7.

It is especially noteworthy for an Engineering professor to receive a SSHRC grant, as they're most commonly awarded grants through NSERC and other science and technology programs. Mohamed often notes to his students that transportation engineering bridges applied and social sciences as it deals with human behaviour patterns, the mobility choices they make, and why they make them.

How Canadians choose to access and use public transit is shifting, and at the center of this is data. Analyzing mobility data allows transportation engineers to optimize the experience of using public transportation, as well as a transition toward zero-emission transit.

“This research is a timely investigation as we leave the ‘Information Age’ and transition into the ‘Experience Age’, during which disruptive technology will change how we access and experience transportation,” said Mohamed, “The aim is to develop an evidence-based framework to support decision making for people’s changing transit needs and for a public transit renaissance.”

The $30,000 grant awarded by SSHRC will support Mohamed’s work and allow him to hire two student researchers to assist him this summer; they are Gamal Eldeeb, a PhD student focused on transportation engineering, and Sadia Tasnim, an undergraduate student in civil engineering. Eldeeb was awarded a competitive Transportation Canada scholarship in 2019 for his work on optimizing public transit.

Together the team will contribute to policy recommendations that will advance the nation’s environmental sustainability while achieving healthier, more equitable and resilient transit services.